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Do You Have Unfiled Tax Returns?

You may be anxious and unsure of how to approach unfiled tax returns with the IRS. Some taxpayers miss one year of tax filing and it leads to multiple years of unfiled returns. This may be because the prepared return resulted in a tax liability. The taxpayer may be unable to pay the liability in full and not know how to proceed. As a result, the taxpayer may become overwhelmed and feel stuck. Some taxpayers, when facing these dilemmas, neglect not only to file the year with the balance due but they feel frozen, and stop filing altogether. This may result in numerous years of unfiled tax returns.

Filing past tax returns can be daunting, but it is necessary to meet your legal tax obligations. If you have a filing requirement, it is essential that you file and pay timely. Neglecting to file and pay timely may subject you to civil and/or criminal penalties.

The IRS considers taxpayers non-compliant when they have a tax filing requirement and they neglect to file and/or pay. Failure to file and pay can have serious repercussions. As a taxpayer you should be aware of the potential civil and/or criminal problems you may encounter, should you not address these issues.

Taxpayers may face these issues if they do not file their tax returns:

  • The IRS may decide to prepare and file a tax return for the taxpayer. This is called a substitute for return (SFR). When the IRS prepares a tax return for the taxpayer, it may not reflect all the deductions, credits, correct filing status and any other information that may need to be included on the return. This is typically not the most advantageous way for the taxpayer to file and may result in a higher tax liability. Also, keep in mind that if there is a balance due, the tax interest and penalties will be assessed based on the original due date of the return.
  • Once there is an unpaid tax liability, the IRS may file Notice of Federal Tax Lien, issue a levy on a bank account and/or wages, and in fraud cases, the taxpayer may face criminal charges. Depending on the amount owed, the taxpayer may be assigned an IRS Revenue Officer.
  • The taxpayer may also miss out on tax benefits, such as refunds or credits that could be overlooked or expire.
  • In the future, the taxpayer may face disadvantages in obtaining loans with lenders. Most lenders and creditors request past tax returns to verify earnings. If the taxpayer is unable to provide this information, they may be declined loan approval. In addition, the Notice of Federal Tax Lien may contribute to denial of credit and/or loans.

If you have unfiled tax returns and do not know where to start, in order to prepare your past tax returns, you may want to reach out to a tax professional. Tax professionals can help in many ways including:

  • Help determine the information needed to prepare your unfiled returns.
  • Reach out to the IRS and/or state tax authorities. Taxpayers who take affirmative steps to “catch-up”, rather than waiting to be “caught” by the IRS, will be better able to negotiate reduced penalties.
  • Prepare past tax returns.
  • Discuss options that may be available to resolve any outstanding tax liabilities.

It can be scary to deal with unfiled returns. A taxpayer may not know where to start or have the resources available to tackle them. Therefore, it may be beneficial for the taxpayer to reach out to a tax professional to assist with navigating the process.

Hoffman & Associates’ Tabitha Relota is an enrolled agent who specializes in IRS negotiations. If you are having any of the issues above you can reach Tabitha at 404-255-7400.


  • Tabitha Relota

    Tabitha joined Hoffman & Associates as a Tax Accountant in May 2023. Prior to joining our tax team, she worked at The Gartzman Law Firm, P.C. in Atlanta for 13 years. As an Enrolled Agent, Tabitha assists clients with case resolution, including negotiations and representation before the IRS and state tax authorities.

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